Designing your own logo is quite straightforward providing you follow and understand a few basics.
In aid of simplification, I won’t delve too deeply into the field of graphic formats.
Basically, for our purposes, there are two types of graphic formats when thinking about print.
1. Bitmaps – jpeg’s, gif’s, tiff’s etc.
Programs such as Paint Shop Pro, Adobe Photoshop or something similar generally output files in a bitmap format. These are pixel-based images that for many purposes are just fine. However, a downside to using a pixel image is the fact that they don’t lend themselves to being enlarged – as the quality will degrade, the more the image is enlarged.
Before we go any further, we need to understand screen vs. print resolution.
2. Screen vs. print resolution
If you’ve ever dabbled in web design you will already know that all web graphics should be saved at a resolution of 72dpi (72 dots-per-square-inch), as a standard PC monitor will display at 72dpi, or 96dpi. This is not exactly true, but good enough for our purposes. So, if we set our workspace at 72dpi in our preferred graphics program, create our artwork, save it and then display this at 100%, it should look perfect onscreen. However, this is not the case when dealing with print. We would need to set our workspace to 300dpi and save the file at this resolution. If we were to use a 72dpi graphic, then it most likely would display very ’jagged’. As with many things, there are workarounds of course. For instance, if the original 72dpi graphic had been created at a much larger size than it was going to be printed at, then when reduced in size, this would help ’boost’ the resolution and possibly give acceptable results.
A much preferred option is creating any graphics in a ’vectored’ format.
3. Vectored images – .eps, .ps, .wmf etc.
Vectored images/text etc. are created using mathematical descriptions which use bézier curves to ’describe’ the image. Pardon my explanation, it’s a tough one to describe and for our purposes is not really necessary to know exactly how this works. The main advantage using a vectored image program, such as Adobe Illustrator / In-Design, Macromedia Freehand etc. is that images / text can be enlarged to any size, without distortion of any sort.
This would be the preferred choice when designing your logo.
So why not use vectored images / text for everything – why bother with a bitmap program at all?
Very simply, it’s horses for courses. Both types of programs (bitmap & vector) have their advantages and disadvantages. For instance, if you are working with photographs, or creating a collage with blended images or want to take advantage of using filters to create some artistic effects etc. etc. then the bitmap program will win hands down.
However, using a bitmap program also has a downside. Let’s say you’ve created a business card in Photoshop and you only want to use 2 colours, in order to keep the costs down. Well, this will cause your print shop a real headache, especially if the two colours overlap, as spot colour separations cannot be easily achieved from this type of program. In fact, if you were just ordering a small-cost job like business cards then your printer would most likely refuse the artwork, if supplied in this way.
So generally, bitmap files are produced using a 4 colour process (CMYK). If you are using a colour photograph on your business card (leaflet, brochure etc.) then this can only be produced using a 4 colour process, so a bitmap file is fine.
If you are working with spot colours, then the vectored format is ideal, as this type of file can be easily colour-separated. Any files you create in a vector format can also be easily exported as bitmaps (jpegs etc.) so you have the ability to design for print and web in the one program.
To sum up, here are a few pros and cons of using the two types of program:
Bitmap programs, e.g. Paint Shop Pro, Adobe Photoshop etc.
Perfect for web design
Great for working with photographs
1,000’s of special-effect filters to boost creativity
Colours can not be easily separated
Graphics can not be enlarged without distortion
File sizes can be very large
Vectored programs e.g. Adobe Illustrator / In-Design, Macromedia Freehand etc.
Produces scalable files that can be enlarged to any size
Files sizes much smaller than bitmaps
Colours can be separated effortlessly
Cons: none really